World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Director General Stresses Role of Innovation in Addressing Global Challenges at WTO Ministerial

Geneva, December 1, 2009
PR/2009/619

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, speaking at the opening of the World Trade Organization (WTO) seventh ministerial conference [Video] in Geneva on November 30, 2009, underlined the importance of innovation in dealing with some of today’s most pressing global challenges – economic recovery and climate change. He further pledged the Organization’s commitment in assisting countries to develop national innovation strategies. 

“As this Ministerial Conference opens, the world is facing two over-riding challenges – the challenge of finding the path to economic growth and the challenge of climate change,” Mr. Gurry said.  “Innovation lies at the heart of the solution to both of these challenges.” He noted that innovation’s “role as the residual source of economic growth has long been recognized and has been emphasized in many stimulus packages” and stressed that innovation will provide “the technological and organizational means for effecting the transformation of our carbon-based economy to a carbon-neutral or carbon-free economy.” 

Innovation “is the space between problem and solution,” Mr. Gurry said.  “An effective and balanced intellectual property system plays a vital role in that space. WIPO is committed to such an effective and balanced system and to assisting countries in developing their innovation strategies.” 

Addressing ministers from WTO’s 153 member states, Mr. Gurry noted the major changes in the economic and intellectual property landscape in the 15 years since the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) came into force.  He cited shifting production and trade patterns across the world, the rising value of intangibles in market capitalization, the growth of e-commerce, the convergence in the media of cultural expressions and the explosion in mobile telephony. “These and other developments have ushered in the promise of a new world of innovation, one that is perhaps best described as a multi-polar one,” he said. 

One expression of multi-polarity has been the changing geography of innovation. Fifteen years ago, North East Asia – Japan, Republic of Korea and China – produced 7.6% of international patent applications. In 2008, they accounted for 26.2% of all international patent applications. Another expression of multi-polarity, he pointed out, is through increased collaboration between enterprises to meet their innovation needs, which has been driven by the complexity of technology and by network technologies which allow multiple actors around the world to participate in common projects. 

Mr. Gurry said the speed of these developments, which has transformed the world of innovation, have important consequences for international organizations. “Will the multilateral process be able to respond in a timely manner to the world of multi-polar innovations?” he asked.  In this respect, he underlined the importance of technical infrastructure, such as global public assets (eg databases) which “can be every bit as important as legal architecture – platforms can be as important as treaties as vehicles for international cooperation.” They are, he said, a “vital means of spreading the benefit of innovation, increasing participation in open innovation and improving the efficiency of technology markets.”

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